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Aechmea blanchetiana ‘Orange form’ (Baker) L.B.Sm. 1955
pronounced: EEK-mee-uh blan-chet-ee-AH-nuh
(Bromeliaceae – the bromeliad family)
common name: Orange Bromeliad
Aechmea is derived from the Greek αιχμη (aichmé), the point of a spear; blanchetiana is for Jacques S. Blanchet (1807-1875), a Swiss merchant and consul who collected many plants in Brazil.
This plant originates in Brazil, from Bahia to Espirito Santo. It is a typical part of the vegetation that grows along the coasts, known as ‘restingas’, whose soils are generally poor and sandy. It is one of the most popular bromeliads for landscaping in tropical and subtropical countries, as it can withstand the tropical sun, low availability of water, and salty sea air. It will endure shade, but the leaves will turn green and rather soft and flaccid. If the plant is pampered with too much water and fertilizer, the same result will occur.
It is a large herbaceous plant, up to a metre or more tall, and 1.5 m in diameter, that has a rosette with abundant strap-shaped leaves, that turn bright orange when exposed to sunlight. It is what is known as a tank-type bromeliad, its leaves being arranged in a funnel and forming a central cavity, usually filled with water. The leaves are stiff, with backward-facing spines at the apex and on the margins. These spines are sharp, and it is advised to wear gloves while handling the plant.
Each rosette blooms only once and then dies, but the process takes a couple of years, and new pups are produced at the base of the mother plant. The flowering season starts in mid-summer, and the colourful branches, up to 2 m tall, and with masses of tiny flowers surrounded by conspicuous red and yellow bracts, last till the end of the year or even longer, until they start bearing fruits. The flowers are pollinated by nectar-eating birds.
Propagation is either by seed, or vegetatively through the pups, that can be separated out when they are about a third of the size of the mother plant. These pups should not be planted too deeply, or they will die.
Photographed in Hosrseshoe Bay 2014, Picnic Bay 2015
Page last updated 8th July 2018